Pink socks and an emotional speech fight cancer in Auburn

Cheryl Schoonmaker reads her story at halftime of the Auburn- F-M lacrosse game

A flash of pink spread dashed across the lacrosse field at Holland Stadium in Auburn on Friday night, as the Auburn High School lacrosse team honored Cheryl Schoonmaker, who has been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer.

Cheryl Schoonmaker was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2011, but, the cancer had already begun spreading. Now, a year and a half later, Schoonmaker has stage IV cancer, with it spreading to her lymph nodes, liver and bone. Schoonmaker has now made it her mission to spread awareness about the disease, so others do not catch it too late like she did.

"I don't want to see anybody else go through it," Schoonmaker says. "You experience it, you live it, and I just want to be the only one and make sure nobody else has to do it."

On Thursday, the Auburn lacrosse team, which includes Cheryl Schoonmaker's nephew Zeph, was read a letter she wrote about her life the past year and a half, giving the athletes a perspective they had not considered before.

"It makes you think about bigger things than yourself, it really puts things into perspective," senior captain Joe Marinelli says. "It made me think about myself and other members on the team, and how important our community is as a close-knit group."

The Auburn team wore high-pink socks to help raise awareness for Cheryl and breast cancer in their game against Fayetteville-Manlius Friday evening, something Schoonmaker thought was special.

"There is a lot of need out there for people like me, we need that support, we need the help, and it really does make a difference, even wearing socks, that you wouldn't [normally] see on the boys," she says.

Schoonmaker read the letter she wrote aloud to the entire stadium at halftime, spreading her message.

She said she's had a positive experience by being treated for cancer locally, mostly right in Auburn, something she recommends to other patients out there. She was impressed the doctors knew her name.

She also reinforces the fact that she caught the disease after it could be contained from the rest of her body, and wants others to get checked so they catch it before that happens.

"If you're sick or you're feeling something wrong, [don't] wait, get it done and taken care of immediately, the longer you wait, the less chance you have of survival," she says.

Cheryl is also a mother of three, a 22-year-old son, a 17-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter, and she said telling her children was one of the hardest parts of being diagnosed.

"They...took it hard," she says while fighting back tears. "But, they're getting through it."

That's another piece of her message: getting help for children whose parents have cancer, and guidance for the cancer patients on how to tell their families about it. But, she says as a mother, living with cancer has given her a little more patience throughout the house.

"I view life as a little less stress," she says. "I sort of let stress roll off my back...if the house isn't clean, I still get upset, but not to the degree I used to."

As she spreads her message of awareness, Schoonmaker constantly reaffirms that without the support of her friends and family, she would not be able to get through this difficult time as easily. She even mentioned she did not realize how many friends she had until they found out that she had cancer.

On Friday night, the Auburn lacrosse team showed that her impact is growing...just like her message.

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